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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 15, No. 6. April 24, 1952

Some Questions

Some Questions

This letter has already reached alarming proportions, but what I should like to know is just how far you dissent from the things I have been saying in it. I should like to know this because some of your remarks have led me to suspect (I hope unjustifiably) that you would like me and my colleagues to go much further than I have said I am prepared to go. Do you, for example, want me to take it as my aim as a University teacher to convert as many students as possible to whatever philosophical or religious views I may happen to hold? I am just not going to do that, for reasons which ought to be clear by now. My job is to teach people to philosophise, not to tell them what conclusions to come to. Again, I have sometimes suspected that you have the idea that there is something meritorious about the mere taking up of a definite stand on an issue, as if not to do so implied a lack of interest in or concern about the subject. But of course the reason why a man is unable to take such a stand may be that he has come to realise the difficulty and complexity of the problem, or that he finds the arguments on both sides unconvincing; and in such a case it is not the refusal to commit himself but the taking of a definite stand which would be [unclear: intelletual] treason. Finally (though I could go on), I confess to the suspicion that you would like the college to be officially committed to some "point of view," religious, political, or what have-you. Now I should be all in favour of the college being dedicated to the spirit of impartial enquiry (I don't want to suggest it isn't), but if what is meant is that it should be committed to some set of conclusions, then it is as well to bear in mind that what this amounts to in practice is such things as credal tests for members of staff, and perhaps for students too; there is precedent for that kind of thing, but I for one (though I know I'm not the only one) should be opposed to it to the last ditch.

Just to make myself thoroughly unpleasant, can I have a last fling at your reporter who, a few issues back, said that I spent most of a lecture discussing academic freedom? Quite apart from the minor point that it wasn't "most" of the lecture (though I admit that it may have seemed so to him), what I spoke about wasn't academic freedom at all, it was this "academic objectivity." Admittedly there is a connection between the two subjects, because if we don't preserve our academic objectivity we shall be in danger of losing our academic freedom, but they are not the same.—Yours without a trace of ill-will.

G. K. Hughes.

Department of Philosophy, Victoria University College.

P.S.—I have been re-reading your leading article, "Dear Students . . in the last issue of last year, and I have been puzzled to know how belief in the existence of God would affect the teaching of pure mathematics. This is only a minor point (though it isn't entirely unconnected with the main one), but it intrigues me.